Encouraging my teen to ask for help

Mental Health   ›   Encouraging my teen to ask for help

Younger children reflexively turn to their parents for help when faced with problems or worries. But with age comes independence and autonomy! During adolescence, young people attempt to develop their own strategies and look for help outside of the family unit. This doesn't mean that they have all the tools they need to confront the challenges they face. In fact, they still have so much to learn! Here are a few tips on asking for help that you can talk to your teen about.

Show Openness

There are a number of opportunities you can take to show your teen that you're available if they need you. For example, when you feel their mood changing, when you can tell that they are experiencing difficult situations or emotions, you can just tell them that you've noticed and that you're there if they need help or if they want to talk. You can also use events outside of their own lives to talk about it (for example, “I want you to know that I'm there for you if ever you go through any heartache like your friend did!”). But you've got to be patient! If your teen doesn't talk to you now, they might do so in the future when they feel ready!


Listen to, Embrace, and Reflect their Emotions

This may seem trivial, but it's really the most important thing to do before offering any advice or solutions. Young people going through hard times, and who ask their parents for help, need to feel like they're being listened to and that their opening up is welcomed. In order to open up more easily, they also need to feel like their situation isn't being judged. So take the time to listen to them. Leave any questions aside for now; you can give them advice afterwards. Here are some tips to show you are really listening:


  • Use uncomplicated statements like “I'm happy you're telling me about it. Is there anything else you want to talk about? I'm here for you and to listen to you”.
  • Let your teen express themselves and let them know their emotions are normal: “I understand that it makes you feel sad”, or “you're right to feel disappointed”.
  • Take the time to actively listen, and leave plenty of room for your teen’s emotions, so that the conversation can be productive. This will especially be the case if your teen feels that you're truly interested and that you're taking the time to understand how they're experiencing the situation or seeing their problem.


Congratulate and Praise

Congratulate and thank your teen for trusting you when they ask for help directly. Then, let them know they can talk to you again if they need to. You can also follow up a few days later by asking if your conversation or your advice helped, and if they need any other information, or if you can help them get it elsewhere.


Make Sure your Teen Knows that it's Confidential

Some children and teenagers can be sensitive and feel stressed about others being aware of their worries. When possible, and as long as your child's safety isn't in jeopardy, make sure not to share what they tell you with their siblings, for example, or with the adults around you. However, give yourself opportunities to vent and to get the support you need for yourself and to better help your teen. You can also increase your teen’s awareness: their medical record becomes confidential when they are over 14 years old, which means they can get help on their own without you knowing about it. This could encourage them to get help independently if any exceptional situation were to arise.


Ask Questions Openly

Try to start by talking about your teen’s strengths and about what they already know, before giving advice. Prioritize open questions about their problems and worries: “what have you tried and what didn't work? What do you think would work? What could help you feel better about the situation?”. Then, provide information depending on their answers. Also make sure to help them find their own solutions, rather than provide ready-made advice that may not suit them.


Refer Them to Other Resources

Don't hesitate to refer your teen to other resources outside the family unit so that they have access to as many potentially useful tools as possible. For example, make sure that they know about the school's psychological help services (specialized educators, school psychologists, etc.). You can also provide them with reliable sources of information, such as the Tel-jeunes website or the different ways to get in touch with Tel-jeunes. You can also refer them to members of your extended family with whom they have a good relationship (an aunt, a cousin, or a family friend, for example).


Be Honest

Don't be embarrassed if you can't answer their questions. Children and teenagers generally appreciate honesty and they can tell when you're uncomfortable. The important thing is to validate their questions and steer them toward the right resources to have them answered. By showing them that you don't know everything, you're also demonstrating that it's alright for them to not know everything!


Tell them About Different Ways they can Ask for Help

We wrongly tend to think that only psychologists can help us with our problems. But there are all kinds of ways to get help, depending on the situation.


Getting help can look different depending on the problems and difficulties each individual faces, as well as according to the way they deal with those difficulties. Some people may prefer:


  • Psychological health professionals. These may include psychologists as well as other types of professionals working in both the private and community settings (local community service centres or organizations, for example), or in school. They can also include psychoeducators, social workers, sexologists, nurses, criminologists, or help-service workers. Every professional has their own specialty, but each one can provide us with help, or direct us toward resources that are suited to our specific issues.
  • Family doctors are often a particularly good gateway to finding out about available services.
  • People in our everyday lives can also occasionally help out when we just need someone to lend an ear. These trusted people are the friends, relatives and community members around whom we feel safe, that can guarantee a certain kind of confidentiality, and that are looking out for our best interests. These people can also be particularly important when all we need is to get our mind off things.
  • Seeking therapeutic solutions, scheduling regular meetings, and being completely committed. This kind of care is provided by private practitioners (through the Ordre des psychologues or through workplace employee support programmes). Psychological help is also offered by local community service centres or by certain community organizations that offer support services.
  • Talking about it with friends or trusted individuals first, putting words to what they're going through, and seriously considering the option of talking about it with a professional.
  • Prioritizing front-line services (such as LigneParents, for example) that offer specific psychosocial assistance to better understand their needs and get the help and support required for a challenging situation, right away.
  • Getting in touch with peers that are going through the same challenges in order to find the right tools (for example, social network support groups, community organization or school parent groups, etc.).


There are all kinds of ways to get help. It's only by asking these questions and trying things out that we can find the kind of support we need.

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